Parking areas get a safety boost

by Andrew Tellijohn

Officials from Parking and Transportation Services say their top priorities are to make the University not only accessible, but safe as well.
Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said more than 260 cameras now monitor activity throughout campus. All of the camera footage is broadcast back to one room in the Transportation Safety Building. By Spring, more than 300 cameras will be located on campus, he said.
Cari Hatcher, public relations representative for the department, said security officials have added cameras to all ramps and garages. They have also installed extra lights in parking ramps and in the passenger walkway between the Nolte Center and Northrop Tunnel.
Department officials also doubled staffing levels and expanded physical patrolling of parking areas, she said.
Another feature soon to be added to campus parking facilities is Audio Panic Alarms, which will allow patrons to be connected to an attendant in a central security room.
“(These changes) are part of an ongoing comprehensive goal to improve access to the University,” Baker said. “We want to make it easy to get here, we want to make it safe, and we want to include all modes of transportation.”
However, change doesn’t always come quickly. Ambitious plans to improve security and transportation were postponed last year, partly because of a $200,000 department budget cut.
“It forced us to take a step back and re-evaluate our prior actions,” Baker said. “Obviously, we can’t do all of what we were doing before.”
After prioritizing, Baker said, officials decided the main mission of the department was obvious: moving people around campus safely. More than 20,000 people use the intercampus bus system every day, he said. “That’s a lot of folks,” he said.
In the process of prioritizing, however, department officials decided that the Route 52 bus line, which moved 1,800 people on and off campus every day, would be slowly phased out of operation.
“Given the cost per rider and the other services provided (through Metropolitan Council Transit Operations), we determined we needed to focus our efforts on improving the campus shuttle system,” Baker said.
However, Baker said he doesn’t plan to leave those riders off campus without transportation. He is proposing a partnership between MCTO and the University, offering a U-Pass to all University students and staff members. “It would allow any member of the University community to ride on any form of public transit and to go anywhere in the metro area at anytime,” he said.
Not only would it give those affected by the 52 route shutdown another option, Baker said, but it might also convince other people to ride the bus.